HBA CEO Dave Nielsen along with leaders from realtors, commercial developers and building owners/managers met with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler last week. After discussing issues related to SDCs in the City, the meeting then focused on progress being made to bring certainty and expediency to the development and building process.
The change in leadership in the Bureau of Development Services (BDS) has already resulted in some positive improvements, as well as setting the tone that BDS will work to find ways to be more customer service-oriented. Also addressed in the meeting were several other issues:
- The need for the Portland Development Review Advisory Committee (DRAC) to have more input into policies before they get vetted to the City Council. The Mayor agreed and was already working to engage DRAC more regularly and effectively, including attending a DRAC meeting to show his commitment to their engagement.
- The need for changes among policies and regulations with the many bureaus and departments that affect housing (e.g. BDS, Housing, Transportation, Parks and Environmental Services) to be looked at holistically. The Mayor shared that he plans on instructing bureaus they need to prepare any proposed changes in conjunction with the annual budget approval process, rather than piecemeal throughout year, so the Council can consider their collective impact on housing supply and affordability and then make decisions accordingly.
- The need for improvements in all processes and regulations that can result in developers and builders having more certainty and expediency in their work. Long time frames, too much subjectivity between plans reviewers, and conflicts between zoning and what the City makes easy for builders to build were all issues having a great impact on housing supply and pricing. This issue had been previously discussed with the Mayor last fall. Since then, the Mayor directed his team and the Bureaus, through a process called Government Accountability Transparency Results (GATR), to provide specific recommendations to accelerate development and reduce costs to meet City goals for increasing housing supply. This recent document outlines some of the changes the Mayor plans to implement.